A biweekly tour of the ever-expanding cartographic landscape.

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Mark Monmonier has devoted his career to dissecting the ways that maps are less than truthful. The author of How to Lie With Maps and a distinguished professor of geography at Syracuse University, Monmonier has written about countless examples of manipulative cartography.

But the doctored chart of Hurricane Dorian’s path that President Trump displayed at a press conference last week stands out as the most flagrant example of deceptive cartography that Monmonier can think of.

President Donald Trump shows off an altered map of Hurricane Dorian's anticipated track on September 4. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed the storm’s predicted path into Florida and up the southeastern seaboard. Notably, the official chart didn’t include any part of Alabama—at that point, no storm forecasts showed that the state was in danger. But an extra appendage drawn in thick black ink suggested otherwise, a cartographic mutilation that kicked off an ongoing administrative/media drama now known as #SharpieGate.

For CityLab, I spoke to Monmonier to hear how this incident fits in to the broader history of manipulative mapping, and why he believes maps are such unusually potent sources of misinformation.

“Usually, attempts to falsify tend to happen before maps are published, and don’t try to contradict established scientific facts,” he told me. “It’s probably indicative of the special respect for maps, that [Trump] thought that his alteration of this map would take precedence over the facts that were already printed on it.”

Read the full interview here.


Can you think of any historic examples of a politician changing a map after it’s been published? Or want to share your thoughts on #SharpieGate? Write me.

For more, read Charles M. Blow’s related op-ed for the New York Times: “Maps Don’t Lie.

Where there were dragons, he saw his childhood

The latest installment of CityLab’s Maps That Make Us series tells a powerful tale of how a well-known Renaissance map gave a young boy sanctuary amid the violence and turmoil of 1980s Northern Ireland.

The Carta Marina in all its otherworldly majesty. (Word Digital Library)

Darran Anderson, a longtime contributor to CityLab on all things maps and cities, describes how the clash of fantasy and reality in the 16th-century Carta Marina changed the way he saw his childhood neighborhood in Derry:

I began to draw my own maps. I focused on charting my neighborhood: a run-down working-class Catholic and Irish Republican area, made up of terraced houses that had once housed Victorian shipbuilders. I drew wind-roses, compass points, cherubs blowing winds. I recorded the hiding places only my fellow street urchins and I knew of, beyond the sight of adults. I mapped places where suspected treasure lay, like a small orchard in an alleyway, and places where perils beckoned, like a Brutalist block of flats, the glass-strewn alleyways, and the British Army watchtower that loomed over us in Rosemount. I even created “Here be dragons”-esque creatures in the forbidden Glen, a wild wasteland area that we were continually warned away from and thus seemed to us to be full of adventures. Everywhere peripheral is a center for someone.

Read the full essay here.

Readers helped us curate an official soundtrack for the Maps That Make Us. Listen here.

Finally, we’re still open to essay pitches, as well as readers’ personal tales about the maps that shaped their public and private lives. You can submit those stories here. The deadline for submissions is Monday, September 16.  

Mappy links

Searching for abortion clinics in Dallas yields a mix of results, including pro-life organizations such as “Birth Choice” and “White Rose Women’s Center.” (Vice/Google Maps)

Painting with your feet creates unique “toe maps” in your brain. (New York Times) ♦ Lawmakers are drawing new voting maps in North Carolina—and it’s being live-streamed. (Charlotte Observer) ♦ Why the mapmaking company TomTom is betting on an autonomous future. (Detroit News) ♦ Google Maps is still sending women seeking abortions to anti-abortion clinics. (Vice)

Thanks for reading MapLab—and if you aren’t subscribed already, you can always sign up here.

Happy end of summer,

Laura Bliss

About the Author

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